Kurt D. Cobain – 15 Years Gone

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It’s hard to believe it but 15 years ago today, Seattle and the friends and family of Kurt Cobain commemorated him in a huge public gathering and a secret, private memorial service.  I happened to have been at the private service, as I knew Kurt Cobain and worked with Nirvana at DGC Records a year or two before his ultimate departure on April 5 (or so), 1994.

As I recall it was around eleven Friday morning when I got a call from my friend Kim Marsh who said there were reports that a body had been found in the apartment over Kurt’s garage.  We turn back the pages of time to remember how the body was seen by an electrician, and like Kennedy’s assisination, the news slowly crept out and was soon confirmed.  I can’t remember if it was actually more than a few hours between the phone call from Kim and confirmation.  Why would it have been?  Anyhow, few hours after that, I was invited to the memorial in Seattle by a friend from the label.  It would be on Sunday, so that gave me Saturday to get there.   I had not worked there for about a year, but during that time, In Utero was released – an album featuring more scathing self-examination in the lyrics, the Rome incident had happened and Kurt had given countless interviews decrying his success and the music business.

His suicide note that perhaps facetiously, longed for the joy that Freddy Mercury had for the rock star life was his last salvo.  Even that point shows what I knew about Kurt Cobain, my personal summation: he was full of conflicts: both indestructable as he dove into a crowd, tough minded about his career yet frail, sickly and insecure.  I think that Kurt comparing his “plight” to Freddy Mercury is naive – we know Mercury had his own demons (read “Mercury and Me,” a great rock book by his lover) and also that he didn’t chose to die like Kurt did.  Another profound difference Kurt left out of his suicide note: Freddy Mercury most definitely wanted to live, not just to be a rock star.

These are some of the thoughts that filled my mind as I visited Seattle and saw the whole crew not just at the memorial, but at wakes held at Krist and Shelli Novoselic’s house and at Kurt and Courtney’s home.  I was angry that he had done it, but also that he had somehow been permitted to.  He was a smart and stubborn guy, he would have found a way to do it.  It’s horrible and not anyone’s fault but his own but at the time I thought of Jim Brown in the african hat.  It wasn’t until years later that I saw Richard Pryor Live in Concert again that I realized that’s where I had heard the idea.  Richard Pryor gets visited by Jim Brown in the African hat who says, “what are you gonna do?  are you going to put the pipe down.”  It was late at night when I saw that tv show but I laughed and thought of Kurt Cobain.  I wish something could have helped him in time, but as Mike Watt once said, “he had a bad day.”

It’s a bad thing to have to remember Kurt.  But we are reminded of him everywhere.  Like Eminem said in his induction speech for RUN DMC last night, “(they) he is everywhere.”  Kurt Cobain and Nirvana were so influential, all the gigs in this blog couldn’t contain all the names of the people who loved his music, the bands who copied it and all that has been written about how great they were.  I was fortunate to have seen them and known them, and I wish Kurt had stuck around when I see Grohl jamming with Paul McCartney.  He could have been like Rusty from Edna Swap, Ken from the Posies or Jamie from American HiFi who back up McCartney, R.E.M. and Hannah Montana.  In other words, he didn’t have to put so much pressure on himself to be “on top.”  But as Danny Goldberg mentioned in his eulogy, Kurt was competitive as hell while at the same time wanting to be “punk.”

It’s a terrible shame Kurt didn’t live to write songs for Hannah Montana, jam w/Sir Paul, see Obama elected or a million other things that have happened since 1994 (I think “Achy Breaky Heart” was a big record during Nirvana’s hit year 1991).  I could go on with these funny “what if” thoughts forever.  I’m just writing to say I miss Kurt and I’m proud to have known him and been able to be of service to such a great artist.  Vibes to all his friends, family and co-workers who might be reading this.  I loved him too.

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